The Hospice Path, Once Again

The doctors at the VA in Albuquerque decided that, considering the gravity of Ronnie’s health, and the decisions I had made regarding his treatment, the hospice unit would be an appropriate placement for him. I agreed.

So here I go again. Once again completing the paperwork, talking to the nurses, meeting the chaplain, and on and on.

My emotions at this point were just whirling. I was feeling a great deal of grief, because I knew my uncle’s life as he had been living it was over. I felt guilty because I was the one who made the decisions that took him from his home. I felt grateful and thankful because things had worked out so that I could be close to him. I felt some anger at Ronnie because his decision to smoke all his life had resulted in his body being consumed with cancer. Yes, I felt a complete range of emotions with clear reasons that I could articulate about each one.

Having been down this path though has helped me put whatever I am feeling into perspective. I am not the person in the midst of this crisis. Ronnie is. My feelings are secondary to his situation. He is the person who is ill, facing pain and death. My life will go on. His will not.


Our Decision to Remove Mother’s Feeding Tube

It was April 10, 2005 when my sister called to tell me that Mother was very ill. I wrote about the details of Mother’s final days in previous posts, and will not rewrite them here.

When Mother was transported to the Hospice Unit at Hendrick Hospital, her doctor, the nurses, my sisters and I began the discussion of deciding whether the time had come to remove Mother’s feeding tube. At the time I was in favor of it, removing the tube, that is.

In my opinion, her body was already dying and the feeding tube was getting in the way of that process. She was ready to die. Her mind and body had declined to the point that she could do nothing for herself. Her hands. I remember her hands had curled at the wrists and could not be straightened. Her neck had ‘frozen’ in a sideways position from not having the strength to hold her head up. It was so sad.

As I have previously written, Darla agreed with me. My other sister didn’t, but finally relented. The tube was removed.

In the process of writing the most recent posts on feeding tubes, I thought about what might have happened if we had left the feeding tube in. She would have definitely lived a few more days, perhaps weeks, depending on whether or not she overcame the infection. She would have been returned to the nursing home.

Our concern was that we could tell she was in pain. Returning her to the nursing home would mean that she would not be able to have the same level of pain control as she would in the hospital. We may have been wrong about that assumption, but nevertheless, that was our understanding. The bottom line was that we did not want her to be in any more pain than necessary and leaving the feeding tube in meant that she was going have to suffer longer.

Therefore, we had it removed.